shopper household cleaning supermarket aisle

Own label home care products perform well as consumers cut branded spending

The cost of living crisis has hit the household category hard. Volumes have fallen in all seven sectors in this report. And three of those are in double-digit decline as cash-strapped Brits rein in non-essential spending.

“For most shoppers, household feels like an easier category to be able to make savings,” explains Ryan Milburn, NIQ senior analytics executive. 

That’s especially apparent in the likes of surface care, which is down 23.2 million packs. Laundry detergent and fabric conditioner have performed poorly, too. They’ve sold a combined 49.2 million fewer litres.

Brands are the ones driving these losses. As consumers trade down, own label is performing better in all sectors. That’s particularly true in the case of hand dishwash, where private label volumes are up 12.2%. 

“The easiest method for shoppers to make savings is by moving to own label,” confirms Milburn. “It’s is having a big impact on brands across household. 

“Shoppers more than ever are value-focused and considering own label. On top of that, once a shopper moves to own label, the data suggests it’s very difficult for brands to win them back.”

But suppliers are taking on that challenge. See Unilever. The homecare behemoth has upped innovation across its portfolio this year to win over shoppers. That work began in March, with a green-minded overhaul for Persil 3 In 1 Capsules. Reformulated to have fewer chemicals and a 20% lower carbon footprint, they were also given sustainable packaging. The switch from a plastic tub to cardboard would “save over 1,000 tonnes of plastic”, Unilever said at the time.

Eco cleaning products 

Similar eco-friendly launches followed, including Domestos Power Foam, in a bottle made from 50% post-consumer recycled plastic (see Top Launch, below).

For Unilever and, indeed, all other household suppliers, taking a sustainable approach is the correct one. So suggests Mark Jankovich, CEO & founder of Delphis Eco – which has delivered volume growth of 86.8% in toilet care and 6% in surface care. 

He points to “an uplift in the ever-growing trend of eco-friendly products. We’ve observed an increase in sachet/refill/pod subscription products and volume quantities offering customers to buy in bulk”. 

The latter trend prompted Delphis Eco to add a range of two-litre refills in late 2022 – “to encourage customers to retain their 700ml spray bottle, thus reducing product cost, plastic, and transport emissions”.

Refillables have also been on P&G’s radar. This year, it launched a 980ml refill carton for Fairy washing-up liquid, which is down 7.5% in units. The innovation allows shoppers “to refill their 370 mil Max Power bottle more than twice”, explains P&G VP for sales Ian Morley. Plus, the carton is recyclable, “helping to save up to 85% plastic”.

For brands like DTC challenger Seep, sustainable moves such as these are part of its founding ethos. That message was hammered home in January, with the launch of its ‘Keep Your Conscience Clean’ push for its portfolio of plastic-free products. “We also did plastic-free July and lots of pop-ups and content highlighting the hidden plastics in everyday things and the issues with recycling,” says Seep founder Laura Harnett.

It also grew its sustainable offer with the likes of sponge cloths made from cellulose and cotton off-cuts from the fashion industry. 

Bio-D has similarly been innovating with sustainability in mind. “In 2023, we launched our new concentrated formula Floor Cleaner, reducing the amount of product needed per use from 15ml to 10ml without compromising on cleaning power – a 33% saving,” says sales manager Lucy Sowerby. 

That’s an important point, given that savings are becoming important for even the most eco-conscious consumer. “Shoppers are increasingly looking for value,” says Laura Marsden, marketing manager at Marigold. 

“For some, that means low pricing. For others, it means long-lasting products. Marigold has focused on targeting the latter. Longevity and durability are key foundations of the Marigold brand.”

They are also the foundations of its Squeaky Clean Flexi Microfibre Cloth, launched in September. The cloth “deep cleans and gives a streak-free finish with just water, responding to the trend towards chemical-free cleaning,” Marsden adds.

In the case of Astonish, it’s been adding value by taking the stress out of cleaning. “Customers are increasingly seeking products that are easier and more practical to use for everyday tasks, taking the difficulty out of cleaning the home,” says CEO Howard Moss. “The simpler and easier the product usage, the greater the popularity.”

Cost increases brought on by external pressures

Lasting fragrance is another plus point, he adds. “Consumers are increasingly seeking effective products with a strong fragrance.” 

But Moss is keen “to not become overly obsessed with simply following trends” – and stresses quality should be the overriding priority for brands. The focus seems to have worked for Astonish, which has grown pack sales 55.8% in surface care alone.

It’s a performance that will no doubt be welcome as homecare faces rising external pressures. Those are outlined by Harnett at Seep. “Like every other brand out there, all of our costs have rocketed – from raw materials, to transport and labour”, she says. “Our view has been to not push price increases through, since our products are already premium priced and we want to get as much traction in the marketplace.”

Fabulosa has also been working hard to avoid passing on extra costs. “There are too many external pressures to mention,” says global brand director Adam Burnett. “We manage this by improving raw material sourcing and improving efficiencies.”

It’s an attitude that just could help brands win shoppers back from own label.

Top Launch 2023

Domestos Power Foam | Unilever

Domestos power foam

Domestos Power Foam made its debut in January as the UK’s “first-to-market, non-bleach, multi-use foaming spray for the toilet and bathroom”. The Arctic Fresh and Citrus Blast (rsp: £3/450ml) variants come in a bottle made from 50% post-consumer recycled plastic, which is also recyclable once the trigger and sleeve are removed. The trigger works when the bottle is upside down, allowing the germ-killing, limescale-blasting foam to be dispensed even in the most difficult-to-reach spots.

Face off: Top Products Survey 2023 pits brands vs own-label